DIY fabric accessories – extend the life of your clothes

Accessories are a girl’s best friend because they can dress up a boring outfit (or better yet, ‘update’ the same outfit you’ve been wearing on rotation!) and you can then get more life out of our clothes. I am going to share a simple way to dress up an outfit with fabric flowers. It’s a great way to upcycle scrap material or old clothes you don’t use anymore!

For this DIY I decided to make a fabric flower shield necklace which can be worn over plain dresses or tops to dress them up. You could also sew the flowers to an existing top or make a brooch out of them. The colour of the fabric gives your outfit an instant boost, which means I can get away with wearing that same black maxi dress more often!

What you’ll need

  • Fabric torn into strips (3cm wide x any length) – you could use anything! Think old shirts, leftover scraps of material etc.
  • Fabric glue
  • Felt OR a large enough patch of fabric
  • Ribbon (I used the clothes hanging ties you usually cut off new clothes)
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper or old magazines so you don’t get glue everywhere!

How to make a fabric flower

I’m not going to pretend like I came up with this myself – I googled “DIY fabric flowers” and found these great and simple instructions. I used fabric I found in my sewing pile which I think came from the remnant bin at the fabric store which was perfect for this project as one flower uses a piece of fabric 3cm x 100cm (varying in length to make different size flowers). You could quite easily use an old shirt or blouse as fabric.

For the effect I was after (a rough/frayed look) it was essential to rip the fabric to create frayed edges – this required cutting a small incision at the bottom of the fabric and ripping it to the end. Not all fabric will tear like this though so test it first. If the fabric doesn’t tear, you could always cut into strips and wash it (which might fray the edges slightly) or leave it with a clean edge look. Some fabrics will even fray on their own accord!

How to make the shield necklace

Once I made the flowers, I then placed them onto some felt until I was happy with the arrangement and then used fabric glue to stick them all together and let them dry. I then traced the shape onto the felt. You should now place the ribbon (or whatever you’re using to tie the necklace) onto the backs of the flowers and then glue the felt to the backs of the flowers (I forgot to do this and had to fix it up later!). You could alternatively glue a matching piece of fabric to the back instead of felt.  The glue should give it enough strength. Be wary that the ‘shield’ shouldn’t be too big or an odd shape or it may bend when you place it around your neck.

Once it was dry I hand-sewed the ribbon to the felt (so it was hidden at the back of the necklace). But as mentioned, it would be easier to glue it to the back of the flowers, underneath the felt!

My guest post at Recycled Fashion

2011 was the year I achieved a few resolutions by the way of the 3Things Project by Oxfam, one of them being to become an Ethical Fashionista. This involved upcycling and recycling clothes. During this time I discovered a mass of great blogs out there who were doing the same thing, one of them was Recycled Fashion.

Recycled Fashion’s motto is awesome:

So, when the lovely Erica from Recycled Fashion decided to take some much deserved time off over Christmas, I offered to do a guest post on my favourite recycled fashion item: the scarf! One of the easiest things to find in a thrift store, and one of the easiest fashion accessories to achieve – I wanted to show everyone my favourite accessory.

You can check out my guest post here.

Perth Fashion Festival for the eco enthusiast

'On A Whim' - a local eco-friendly, sustainable fashion designer who uses recycled and vintage fabrics. Photo from the On A Whim Spring Lookbook.

The Perth Fashion Festival starts today and there are plenty of events on for the eco-conscious fashionista. I have discussed before the benefits of buying recycled, pre-loved, or vintage clothes and it seems the Perth Fashion Festival have realised fashion isn’t just about expensive high end clothing – first and foremost it’s the creativity behind being fashionable.

The following events are great ways to be inspired and learn all about how to buy and style pre-loved clothes (i.e. things that already exist in your wardrobe), or recycled/vintage clothes (that you buy secondhand) or even finding local ‘handmade’ designers.

  • Popsicle
    Showcasing local designers in pop-up display around locations in Northbridge. Includes a old favourite of mine She Seldom Blushes and a great sustainable designer On A Whim (featured above). Check the website for details. [All day, every day]
  • Restyle
    A showcase of innovative looks on the runway that use 100% recycled op-shop pieces. A great way to be inspired to op-shop and thrift your way fashionable. Located at Fashion Central. [11.45am Saturday 24 September)
  • Restyle Workshops
    Learn (for FREE!) how to tailor your pre-loved garments, and ultimately get the most out of vintage or thrift shopping. [1pm and 3pm, Saturday 24 September and Sunday 25 September]
  • Restyle Pop-Up Caravan Vintage Store
    A retro caravan in the Perth Cultural Centre full of pre-loved and vintage items. [All day, every day]
  • Two bucks ’til Wednesday Vintage Sale
    A vintage sale at the Perth Cultural Centre with items starting from $2. All profits are returned to various WA and local charities. [11.00am-3.00pm Saturday 24 September]

If you’re not interested in the recycled/vintage scene then Perth Fashion Festival is also a great place to check out and support local designers.

Either way it’s a great opportunity that shouldn’t be missed!

Tsumami Kanzashi

Eco-fashion tip: one of the easiest ways to update your wardrobe is with new accessories. My latest love is cute brooches which can sometimes also double as hair accessories – so when I found myself at the Baba-dee Productions stall at the Made on the Left markets, I knew I had to have a bit of this tsumami kanzashi action!

What is tsumami kanzashi you ask? Basically it’s origami style folding of small silk squares to form shapes (typically flowers) and are then glued and sewed together. They are typically worn as hair accessories. Baba-dee Productions uses vintage buttons for the centre which I thought was an extra cute touch, and had then in both hair clips and brooches. Though their etsy store collection is somewhat small, there was a huge variety at the markets – so I definitely suggest you get down to the next one!

My plastic fantastic bag

I found the amazing Bags Revolt  stall at the last Made on the Left Market and instantly fell in love with this bag (which I subsequently bought).

I love the colours. I love the size. I love the fact that it’s made from old plastic bags!

Talk about an upcycling hero!

Venezuelan born artist Patricia Acuña has only lived in Perth since February last year and we’re sadly losing her to the East Coast soon! According to her blog, Patricia decided to weave her own bags after moving to Perth and subsequently took sewing and weaving lessons, but it was her decision to use old plastic bags that really make her products special.

It is clear from the business card/product tag that came with the bag and also from her website, that Patricia supports a sustainable world and has chosen to use plastic for weaving in order to create awareness of the environmental problems plastic bags and other household ‘junk’ is causing.

“The problem I have set out to tackle is the plastic phenomenon. The alchemy of transforming common “trash” into gold. It is a mix of innovation and tradition, as the plastic bags get woven and sewn into a common objects, Art or Any-Thing Beautiful!”

Although her products may not be readily available for much longer, her blog has some great information about plastic problems and how she is creatively trying to not only create awareness, but upcycle the ‘junk’ into something brand new and beautiful!

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Upcycling – old to new

Previously: Recycling clothes.

Continuing my 3things pledge to become an ethical fashionista, I have been on the challenge to discover the wonderful world of upcycling.

Upcycling is the process of converting a somewhat useless product into something of value. In the world of fashion upcycling can also be referred to as reconstruction, refashion or reclaiming. There is even the term ‘trashion’ (trash+fashion).

The best part about upcycling is you can use nearly everything in your wardrobe again and make it into something new. WHY you ask? Why not!? Why not use something you already have and make it into something new? It’s exciting, it’s crafty and there is a definite sense of achievement when you realise nothing went to waste when making that item. Best of all it can be virtually free if you use something you already have.

Upcycling yourself involves at least some basic sewing skills for small things, and a sewing machine for the more complex things (or be willing to pay a tailor or your Mum to do it for you).You can also buy upcycling items which it is relatively easy once you know where to look.

I decided to try both – buy and make.

Buy It

I unknowingly stumbled across buying something upcycled when I was drawn to the colourful dress rack assortment at Pigeonhole http://pigeonhole.com.au/ to discover the rack was full of old vintage dresses upcycled to better fitted dresses while still keeping with the vintage styling and there were no two fabrics the same. The best thing about these dresses is they were super cute, while still being unique.

upcycled vintage style dress by pigeonhole

I found some great online stores like Enchanted Platypus selling upcycled clothes like this amazing upcycled jacket made from old sweaters. Enchanted Platypus even donates a portion of her takings to her favourite charities.

Image from The Enlightened Platypus

And this dress from Scarlett Charlett made from a mixture of old outfits.

Image from Scarlett Charlett

You can even find bags like this one made by SewMuchStyle, made from old suits.

Image from SewMuchStyle

Make It

When it came to making something I really had to put my creative hat on. I’ve been seeing fabric necklace in magazines lately and decided to give it a crack without really knowing what I was doing! I found an old singlet that had a hole in it and decided to use this. I ended up using 95% of the singlet, cutting it up into strips, plaiting, tying and sewing it together in different spots. I then made some fabric flowers and used spare buttons (you know, the kind you get with new clothes?). Here is my random attempt:

upcycled necklace by Kat

Can you believe that was once a singlet? I’ll admit it’s a pretty average first attempt and would definitely create a pattern next time instead of cutting and sewing blindly like a crazy person, but it was good fun and great practice for hand sewing and crafting and it inspired me to make more attempts in the future!

There are lots of ideas and patterns on the internet, you just have to find them. For example the below singlet was converted from an old tshirt, with instructions on how to make it and step by step pictures included.

Upcycling sewing project from Crafting a Green World

Upcycling love

The best part is, once I gave upcycling an attempt I then started looking at everything as a project-in-waiting. Old clothes, leftover fabric, random objects – anything really. I even started finding other people making things and selling them locally, like the store Oldlove  in Subiaco, who sell all sorts of upcycled items such as lampshades made from things like old My Little Ponys or He-Man action figures or books (like in the picture below), as well as jewellery, accessories and clothes.

Image from Oldlove

So far this has been the most fun eco fashion element I’ve played with. It’s just so exciting to find something unique and amazing that used to be something else entirely.

 

Next: Fairtrade and Ethically Accredited

Recycling clothes – seek and you shall find

Previously: Becoming an ethical fashionista

The road to my becoming an ethical fashionista has challenged the way I  look at fashion and shopping. It can no longer be about satisfying an immediate want and going to the cheapest fashion store to buy it. I have to consider what my ethical choices are and the first consideration should be looking at what already exists – second-hand or vintage clothes.

Mo Mo's Vintage

With so much waste in the world, fashion certainly contributes with its ever changing trends encouraging people update their wardrobe constantly and subsequently throw away old, out of fashion clothes. But where do these old clothes go? Either the bin (I hope not!) or to goodwill clothes bins for recycling.

Firstly, let’s get two things straight. I might refer to things as ‘second-hand’, ‘recycled’, ‘op-shop’ or ‘vintage’ – what’s the difference? The only difference is, specifically referring to something as ‘vintage’ refers to clothes typically from the 70’s and earlier (and are almost ‘in demand’ for their uniqueness) they are usually harder to source. Most of them still exist today thanks to vintage enthusiasts and people storing bags of old clothes and eventually giving them away! When I say ‘second-hand’ or ‘op-shop’ or ‘recycled’ – despite technically meaning all pre-loved clothes, typically refers to clothes from the 80’s onwards, including relatively new clothes. The reason these ‘new’ clothes have been given to goodwill is probably because they are not in fashion anymore and the owner needed to make room for new fashionable clothing!

There are positives and negatives to buying second hand or vintage clothes. In the positive, you find can find cheap, unique or rare clothes and it’s good to know that reusing something means it doesn’t go to waste.  The only negative is it can take more energy to trawl through racks of clothing, to then hope it’s in the right size and also repair possible damage. Sometimes if it’s really special or rare, it’s not even cheap! True vintage enthusiasts find that it’s all part and parcel of vintage shopping – it’s a treasure hunt.

My recycled clothes adventure

vintage scarf

vintage velvet skirt with neck tie turned into a belt

Walking into a vintage store is like walking into a costume shop – you have to have an idea of what character you want to play and be willing to try a few on before finding the right one – and sometimes you just don’t know where to start. I had fun looking through all the racks without anything particular in mind, I was just hoping something would stand out.

I eventually stumbled across a navy velvet skirt, tried it on and it fortunately fit perfectly. I also found myself getting giddy at the scarves rack (I have an obsession for scarves), and found a great mauve coloured fabric which was the perfect length for a neck or head scarf.  I also spotted some awesome fabric in the way of a neck tie and thought it would make a good belt. All three things cost me $60. If I was to buy this from an op-shop it would have costed even less.

Needless to say, you certainly have to be creative when looking through recycled clothes. I usually browse by fabric, if I see a fabric that catches my attention I’ll have a look at the outfit. It also pays to understand the history of fashion so that when you find something you understand how it was meant to be worn and how you can incorporate it into your modern wardrobe.

A recycle fashion hero

Jessi Arrington

I recently stumbled upon Lucky So and So blogger Jessi Arrington on the ‘ideas worth spreading’ website TED, and her inspirational talk titled ‘Wearing nothing new’.

Jessi, self-confessed ‘outfit obsessed’, doesn’t buy anything new and buys everything second-hand.

“Second-hand shopping allows me to reduce the impact my wardrobe has on the environment and on my wallet, I get to meet all kinds of great people, my dollars usually go to a good cause, I look pretty unique…”

Jessi believes if you believe that you are a good person inside and out, then there is no look that you can’t pull off. She also puts great emphasis on not getting emotionally attached to clothes. To prove her point, she came to the TED Seminars with a suitcase of underwear and only the clothes on her back. She bought every outfit for every day of the seminar from second-hand stores in the area.

“You do not have to spend a lot of money to look great”

What Jessi makes you realise is that buying recycled clothes gives you the best opportunity to dress uniquely. There’s something slightly unsettling about going to a fashion chain and picking up an outfit from a rack of 30 other matching outfits.

Watch Jessi’s inspirational video here:

Swap with friends

If you’re not keen on trawling through second-hand stores, another option is to have a fashion swap night with your girlfriends where you can bring all your unused outfits and swap them with your friends. I once accidently did this with a bunch of girls from work, where we discovered we all had bags of clothes to give to goodwill in the boots of our car at the time, so we brought them all into the office and we went through each other’s bags. It felt a lot less invasive to know where the clothes were coming from.

Another option is websites such as Thread Swap which is virtually the same thing, but online. This involves a straight swap system though, so in order to ‘take’ something you will have had to have ‘given’ something of the same value. It’s still a great way to find people who will truly use your pre-loved fashion items.

Perth vintage

Whilst you can quite easily find goodwill clothes stores (such as ‘Good Sammys’, ‘Salvation Army’ etc), the true vintage stores are harder to find. Here are a few that I know of:

Memory Lane : 768 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley

She Seldom Blushes : Shop 5, Atwell Arcade (just off High Street Mall) Fremantle.

MoMo’s  : 849 Beaufort St Inglewood.

Lola Rose Vintage  : 42a Old Perth Road, Bassendean WA

Pigeonhole Vintage : Shop 10 Bon Marche Arcade, Barrack Street, Perth

Bluebird Vintage  : 288 Cambridge St, Wembley

You can also keep your eye out for advertised markets such as Polka Dot Vintage Markets and the Sugar Blue Burlesque’s Retro Markets.

The conclusion

Personally, I am a vintage girl at heart loving everything retro. I usually don’t mind going on a treasure hunt for clothes and I love the idea of finding a really unique outfit. But I know that it’s not for everyone and I know that it can become tiring, especially if you’re desperate for a specific item and you just can’t find it.

An alternative to buying second-hand or vintage clothes is upcycling.  Upcycling uses these old clothes and fabrics but reconstructs them into something different (both in retro and modern styling) and this is the next stage of my ethical adventure.

Next: Upcycling

Becoming an ethical fashionista

my wardrobe of clothes

As I have mentioned before, I recently made an ethical fashion pledge via Oxfam’s ‘3things to change the world’ initiative. Whilst I later expanded this to becoming an ethical shopper (in all facets of my consumerism), the fact still remains – I love fashion and I can’t give it up, so I had to find an ethical and sustainable way of being involved in fashion.

How can being an ethical fashionista ‘change the world’?

Ever wondered how clothes from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on are still found in good condition today? Do you think most of today’s mass produced clothes will last that long?

Ever wondered how many new clothes you’ve bought, and subsequently how many old clothes you ‘threw out’? Hopefully most of you give old clothes to charity, but in the UK in 2009 it was estimated that 63% of people’s old clothes go to landfill.   Most of these clothes are perfectly fine, or at least most of the fabric is still in perfect condition.

Ever wondered how a top could be on sale for $5? I’m sure you just thought “Bargain!”, but what it more likely means is the effort of some underpaid worker in a third world country has now been demoralized.

As I mentioned before when I talked about being an ethical shopper, it’s all about consideration as to where these items came from: considering and appreciating the history behind a vintage item, considering the worth of an outfit’s fabric, and considering the effort and conditions of the workers who made your modern day outfits.

How to be an ethical fashionista

Here are three ways you can become an ethical fashionista:

  1. Recycling clothes (buying second hand or vintage clothes)
  2. Upcycling existing clothes (altering clothes into something new)
  3. Buying fairtrade or ethically accredited clothes

I have made the lifelong decision to be an ethical fashionista. Full stop. I am experiencing all three of these steps, and sharing the journey with you in articles to come. This isn’t about being preachy because I am experiencing this for the first time too, and I know nobody wants to be told what they can and cannot wear! But it’s about educating myself (and you!) to realise something you probably didn’t consider before.

Attitude

I’ve now realised the essential key to this challenge is changing my attitude about fashion. Fashion for most girls (and boys) I know has become all about satisfying immediate wants – whether it be mass produced cheap rip-offs of the latest trends, or buying something expensive just for the ‘label’. We see a celebrity wearing something and we decide we have to have it. I honestly believe it’s an addiction.

There are different ways of being an ethical shopper, but having the right attitude is the only thing that will make it work. How?

  • Patience – it’s not as likely that you will be able to satisfy any immediate wants
  • Creative – you have to think outside the box and look at a piece with how it can tie into your current wardrobe, how it could be altered to fit, or how you can just ‘make it look good’
  • Understanding – recycled clothes have flaws, upcycling takes effort and buying fairtrade involves checking the label and doing some research – look beyond this

It’s safe to say that becoming an ethical fashionista has already completely changed the way I look at things. Where I used to often head straight to the mass produced cheap ‘sweat shop’ stores to buy the latest cheap fashion item, I now take a step back and look around at all my options, whether it be recycling, upcycling or hunting online for some awesome fairtrade outfits or accessories. There is an amazing community of ethical stores out there, which I would have never found if I hadn’t looked. It’s already brought some of the most exciting items to hit my wardrobe in a long time!

What now?

I am going to tell you more about each three areas of becoming an ethical fashionista with my own experiences and adventures, one by one.

For now, why don’t you start looking at your attitude to fashion and start observing your purchasing practices? Once I made the decision to become an ethical fashionista, it was amazing how guilty I felt just walking into a cheap fashion store and how unappealing and ‘cheap and nasty’ the clothes seemed.

Next: Recycling Clothes